Pressed and Blown Glass and Glassware, NEC

SIC 3229

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing glass and glassware, not elsewhere classified, pressed, blown, or shaped from glass produced in the same establishment. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing textile glass fibers are also included in this industry, but establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing glass wool insulation products are classified in SIC 3296: Mineral Wool. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing fiber-optic cables are classified in SIC 3357: Drawing and Insulating of Nonferrous Wire; and those manufacturing fiber-optic medical devices are classified in the surgical, medical, and dental instruments and supplies industries. Establishments primarily engaged in the production of pressed lenses for vehicular lighting, beacons, and lanterns are also included in this industry, but establishments primarily engaged in the production of optical lenses are classified in SIC 3827: Optical Instruments and Lenses. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing glass containers are classified in SIC 3221: Glass Containers, and those manufacturing complete electric light bulbs are classified in SIC 3641: Electric Lamp Bulbs and Tubes.

Industry Snapshot

The pressed and blown glassware industry manufactures a wide range of products, including television tubes, ashtrays, candlesticks, stemware, tobacco jars, optical lenses, and Christmas tree ornaments. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the industry maintained a steady level of employment at about 37,000 workers, while the value of shipments rose steadily to reach $6.1 billion by 1997. However, by 2001, employment had fallen to 29,241 workers and the value of industry shipments was down to $5.2 billion. Both measures fell further by 2006, when the industry employed 18,754 workers and was valued at $4.0 billion. Numbers rose in 2007 to 21,777 employees and $4.46 billion but declined again in 2008 to 20,461 employees and $4.34 billion. Overall, the industry numbers declined between the late 1990s and the late 2000s. Certain segments of the industry are very sensitive to market conditions (such as the housing market), whereas other markets show some sign of overseas competition and outsourcing.

Organization and Structure

The companies involved in the pressed and blown glass industry displayed much diversity in earnings and employment levels. Of the roughly 1,600 industry establishments in the late 2000s, according to Dun and Bradstreet, only about 20 percent employed 10 or more people. However, the industry was dominated by large companies in some way historically related to Corning Incorporated, such as Owens Corning and Owens Illinois. Anchor Hocking Glass was another giant in the industry, although dwarfed by the Corning units. Steuben Glass, also a Corning company, and Lenox Crystal were among those companies making handmade stemware, both of which shared the international market with Waterford Crystal of Ireland.

Due to the resurgence of interest in glass blowing in the United States, small craft shops could be found across the country where artisans sold their wares, displayed their techniques, and often taught classes. However, these shops were generally neither involved nor interested in producing the mass quantities of machine-made glassware supplied by such large corporations as the Corning conglomerate.

The product share within the industry was split between five types of goods. Textile glass fiber accounted for 38 percent of the overall market; machine-made table, kitchen, art, and novelty glassware claimed roughly 25 percent; machine-made lighting and electronic glassware took 10 percent; all other machine-made glassware accounted for about 18 percent; and handmade pressed and blown glassware claimed approximately three percent. Uncategorized pressed and blown glass and glassware made up the remaining six percent. The materials consumed in the greatest amounts by the industry included all types of glass sand; sodium carbonate (soda ash); industrial organic chemicals other than sodium carbonate; other chemicals and allied products; and wood boxes, pallets, skids, and containers.

Background and Development

The Mesopotamians are credited by archaeologists with making the world's first glass around 2500 B.C. However, it was not until the Roman Empire that glass making evolved as a standard craft, much like baking and jewelry making. Venice eventually became known as the glass-making capital of the world and remained so through the 1600s. Glass making in the United States was very much a crude art form until the eighteenth century, but it nearly died out several times. Glass items of any quality, such as windows or glassware, needed to be bought from England. However, several small shops where glass was blown provided wares for limited customer bases, and eventually larger manufacturers, such as Bakewell and Company of Pittsburgh, entered the marketplace. For the cosmetic enhancement of glass, etching was practiced during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. However, the ability to press glass in very large quantities did not develop until the nineteenth century.

The glass industry in the United States started to boom after the War of 1812. Between 1800 and 1825, America experienced strong demographic, economic, and political growth. Luxury items were in ever-increasing demand, creating a need for machine-made glass products. Glass pressing was already common in Europe by the late 1700s, although the pieces were small and made with waffle-iron-type presses. American inventors developed the first large, hand-operated pressing machine.

The introduction of glass pressing created a new challenge for glassmakers. Only specific glass mixtures were adequate for pressing, which required experimentation to discern. Also, experience was required to know how much molten glass could be placed in a press without scrapping the piece and how much time was required to produce the glass before it started to cool and crack. By the time these processes were perfected, glassmakers started to produce molds exhibiting ornate designs, referred to as "lacy glass." Glass pressing continued to evolve during the colonial era, expanding to candlesticks and lamps. The Victorian era heavily influenced glass making, and by the 1880s, colored glass was the order of the day. Glass collecting became a pastime for many and an obsession for some, evidenced by collectors willing to pay heavily for early-American, lacy, carnival, and depression glassware.

The pressed and blown glass industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s experienced low margins, high competition, and high technology. While glass tableware and cooking dishes did not share the high-tech image of fiber-optic cables and devices, research and development continued for better materials for these purposes. Likewise, new marketing approaches, such as creative packaging and merchandising, were constantly investigated.

Industry shipments declined from $6.1 billion in 1997 to $5.2 billion in 2001. Each of the industry's five segments saw declines during this period. For glass fiber, textile-type, the value of shipments dropped from $1.9 billion in 1997 to $1.5 billion in 2001. Shipments of machine-made pressed and blown table, kitchen, art, and novelty glassware fell from $989.3 million to $859.3 million; machine-made pressed and blown lighting, automotive, and electronic glassware, from $1.7 billion to $1.5 billion; all other machine-made pressed and blown glassware, from $960.1 million to $851.5 million; and handmade pressed and blown glassware, from $173.9 million to $131.4 million.

The miscellaneous pressed and blown glassware industry continued its decline into the 2000s. Shipments in 2006 were valued at $4.0 billion, an increase over $3.9 billion in 2005 but still far below 2001's $5 billion. For the various industry segments in 2006, glass fiber, textile-type shipments totaled $1.52 billion; machine-made pressed and blown table, kitchen, art, and novelty glassware shipments were $991.8 million; machine-made pressed and blown lighting, automotive, and electronic glassware shipments were $397.8 million; all other machine-made pressed and blown glassware shipments were $715.0 million; handmade pressed and blown glassware shipments were $134.4 million; and other uncategorized pressed and blown glassware shipments were $230.6 million.

Current Conditions

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the value of shipments in 2007 was $4.46 billion and $4.34 billion in 2007 and 2008, respectively. However, the U.S. economy was hit by an economic crisis in 2008. The housing industry was hit particularly hard as new housing starts fell to 50-year lows--from over two million new housing starts in 2005 to 554,000 in 2009, the lowest number since the U.S. federal government began keeping records in 1959. Companies such as Owens Corning, which provides glass supplies to the construction industry, saw sales drop. The company posted a net loss of $813 million in 2008. The company managed a profit of $64 million in 2009 despite lower revenues by cutting costs, including reducing the workforce, delaying capital projects, and increasing prices. Deep declines in demand were somewhat offset by lower raw material prices. Owens Illinois, the world's largest glass container manufacture, also saw sales drop in 2009, but unlike its sister company, Owens Corning, Owens Illinois continued to post profits for its investors.

Industry Leaders

Many of the top-ranking companies in the entire glass industry were related in some fashion to Corning Incorporated, of Corning, New York --such as Owens Corning and Owens Illinois Inc., both of Toledo, Ohio, which have historical ties to Corning but are separate, publically traded companies.

Corning Incorporated posted 2009 revenues of $5.4 billion. The company, with 23,500 employees worldwide, changed its name in 1989 from Corning Glass Works to better reflect its increasingly diverse product line. The founder, Amory Houghton, moved his glass operation from Brooklyn to Corning, New York, in 1868. By 1875, Corning Glass Works was incorporated, and Houghton became president of the company--a position he retained until 1911.

The technical expertise of the company was recognized early, as Thomas Edison asked for its help in making electric lightbulbs in 1880. In 1912, Corning invented borosilicate, which was used to produce Pyrex in 1915. Pyrex immediately became standard in the scientific community for laboratory equipment, although the consumer markets were not tapped until years later. Another significant milestone for Corning was the 1934 manufacture of a 200-inch diameter mirror for the Mount Palomar telescope. The company surpassed this accomplishment by creating the world's largest single-piece telescope mirror for the Japanese government in 1992. In the 1960s, Corning created the ceramic heat-resisting reentry shields and glass windshields for the Apollo moon program. The most significant research for Corning in past years was in the development of fiber optics. Corning realized the potential of the material in the 1960s and continued research and development even though market demand was low; by 1984, the company had invested $87 million in new fiber-optic plant facilities. In 2009, LCD computer screens and fiber optics accounted for 45 percent and 31 percent of Corning Inc.'s revenues.

Owens Illinois Inc., with over 22,000 employees worldwide in 2009, was a leader in the manufacture of glass containers and other glass products, as well as a major producer of plastic packaging materials. Headquartered outside Toledo, Ohio, the company posted 2009 sales of $7.1 billion. Owens Corning, a major producer of glass fiber, employed 16,000 people worldwide and reported 2009 sales of $4.8 billion. The private company WKI Holding Company Inc., includes brands Baker's Secret, Corelle, CorningWare, EKCO, Magnalite, Olfa, Pyrex, Revere, and Visions.

Other leaders in the industry included Anchor Hocking Glass of Lancaster, Ohio, and Libbey Inc. of Toledo, Ohio. Anchor Hocking traces its roots back to 1905, when founder Ike Collins convinced a group of seven investors to contribute to the Hocking Glass Company's original capitalization of $25,000. By the end of its first year of manufacturing and marketing lamp chimneys and other glass items, the company had generated sales of $20,000. By 1919, Hocking boasted 300 employees (many of them highly skilled glass blowers) and $900,000 in annual sales, and it had diversified from lamp chimneys (which were made obsolete by the invention of the incandescent lightbulb) into glass tableware.

Acquisitions and mergers expanded the company's interests into glass containers, plastics, and hardware, increasing annual sales to a peak of more than $900 million in the early 1980s, but intense competition forced Anchor Hocking to sell out to the Newell Company (renamed Newell Rubbermaid Inc. in 1999 after its acquisition of Rubbermaid) in 1987. In April 2004, Newell Rubbermaid sold Anchor Hocking to Global Home Products LLC, and in 2007, the company was purchased by Monomoy Capital Partners. In 2009, Anchor Hocking had approximately 600 employees and had a plant, headquarters, and distribution center in Lancaster, Ohio, as well as a specialty glass location in Monaca, Pennsylvania, and a location in Ontario.

With 6,850 employees worldwide, Libbey Inc. is a leading producer of glassware, flatware, and ceramic dinnerware, all of which are distributed throughout North America and to more than 100 other countries. In 2009, the company posted revenues of $750.2 million.


In 2009, the pressed and blown glass industry employed approximately 24,300 workers. Of these, roughly 52 percent (12,636) worked in production. The average hourly wage of production workers in the glass and glass production manufacturing industry in 2009 was $16.37.

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